Sharon Lin - Ivy League Application
Topic Applying to Ivy League colleges
Date April 12, 2017

Applying to Ivy League colleges with Sharon Lin

Sharon is an 18-year-old developer, writer, and activist. She was named as a 20Under20 and accepted into several top schools, including Ivy league. She plans on attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for her college studies. 

Sharon hosted a live 30 minute Q&A session on Goodwall on the 11th of April. The session was attended by students from over 20 different countries around the world.

"Personal integrity and passion are probably what most Ivy Leagues look for. They obviously want accomplished students, but they also really want to see students who've made an impact on their peers and teachers. Leadership and recommendation letters can highlight the impact you've made on others."

I was wondering if, when you put it in perspective, are the grades more important than the extracurricular activities to an Ivy League school? Also, what kind of activities should one have to impress an Ivy League school? —Ines

I would definitely say it’s a scale. Ivy Leagues definitely have a threshold for how they want your grades to look, but they’re more looking at a holistic view of you. I’d recommend checking out the average percentile of GPAs for students admitted to schools to get a sense of what grades you need to get in.

Since there is only a little time left for high school seniors before graduation, can you give any advice? —Sakshi

At this point, keep up your grades, visit the colleges you’ve gotten into, work on getting financial aid and scholarships, and enjoy senior year! Don’t stress out too much about things – you’ve worked hard and should celebrate your achievements!

What activities stand out to ivy league schools? —Kaitlyn

For activities, pursue your passion! Admissions officers are pretty good at identifying individuals who are trying to pad their resumes. As long as you dedicate yourself to an activity and pursue as best you can, there will definitely be opportunities open for you. I’ve known students who were rock climbers, sailors, filmmakers, a capella singers, and even Rubik’s cubers get into a variety of Ivies.

Does it matter if you're a full IB student? Because I am currently completing the IB diploma. I'm wondering if it helps or hurts? —Anjola

I haven’t seen the IB program play a negative role in admissions. Typically, as long as you achieve top grades in your classes and have good recommendations, I completely think the IB diploma is definitely a good boost (although it’s definitely NOT required for admissions!)

I'm from another country and I was wondering how hard it is for a foreigner to get in? —Leyla

Usually, there are smaller quotas for international students at Ivies. Definitely apply if you can, but the percentage of international students who are admitted is definitely smaller.

I just wanted to inquire whether we necessary have to undertake the SATs and furthermore the APs in order to improve our chances for Ivy Leagues? Also considering that I'm pursuing A/AS levels which their websites say they accept. Is there any existent order of preference? —Bharat

You can either take SATs or ACTs, but I would definitely recommend doing SAT Subject Tests and APs (or their international equivalents) if you can. Colleges do like to see you challenge yourself and apply yourself to the fields you’re interested in studying. Your scores can help boost your application and distinguish you among other students with similar interests.

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What Ivy League schools are great for people of science? —Adrienne

Most of the Ivies are strong across the board, but if you have a specific field of science you want to study, I encourage you to look up college rankings/past student reviews/school descriptions for their specific departments.

What can you do to improve your ACT score in order to reach the Ivy League standard? —Michal

Study! I didn’t personally take the ACT, but if you can form a study group or purchase a book of past problems, it will definitely help. Taking past tests has always been my go-to strategy.

Would it stand out more in the application if you did different activities instead of focusing on one? —Sarah

Don’t spread yourself too thin. Most colleges prefer a “pointy” student than a generalist. Try to identify your passions and pursue them deeply, as opposed to spreading yourself across multiple areas.

I am planning on being a lawyer, what can I do to get an Ivy League schools? How can I stand out? —Jaden

That’s fantastic!  Debate, mock trial, Model UN and moot court are great activities that I recommend you check out!

Coming from a smaller public school in Alaska, what are some things students like me could do to be seen as more competitive amongst students from top private schools? —Katherine

Most Ivies try to diversify their pool, so coming from Alaska is actually a plus, especially since you have less competition. I’d definitely recommend trying to focus on one or two interests and being the absolute best in your state or region for that activity.


I'm a freshman in highschool and I'm involved in the foreign language and math honor societies and the band and debate programs. I'm also in the top 6% of my class. Any ideas for more extracurriculars or anything in general that'll help me get accepted into Harvard or Princeton? —Christopher

Continue developing your interests and getting top grades! As long as you maintain your GPA as high as possible (if your school has a Naviance or system for tracking past admits, I’d recommend looking up the GPAs of students who were admitted in the past), try to be the best in your activity. Whether that means state or national competitions, the more recognition you can earn, the more you stand out.

'm signing up for edX online college courses that offer verified certificates, do you think these would benefit me in the college run? —Christopher

Definitely! I’m always an advocate for independent learning

I'm from Croatia and I was asking, could you please tell me do I even stand a chance to enrol an Ivy league university? —Lucija

Anyone can apply! Try to work hard in school and pursue your passions!

Do you think part time jobs are valorised by the Ivy League colleges? —Ines

Ivies do a pretty good job of recognising work and part-time jobs in their extracurriculars. If you’ve been involved for a long time, definitely include it in your application (but if you would prefer to highlight other activities that you’re more passionate about, that’s fine as well!)

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What is the best way to study for the SAT math 2 subject test? I know that MIT requires you to take it, so I want to get the best score possible. —Isabell

I took Algebra II and Trigonometry before taking the test, so I was pretty prepared. I recommend the Barrons study prep book – you can find it at your library or rent a copy/purchase a copy if you need. Past problems are always the best way to study for exams.

I'm involved with 2-3 clubs and up until last semester I was doing pretty good in school. I was working at a local restaurant because I want to own my business in the future and unfortunately I began to do bad in school. I'm trying to pick my grades and myself up again. So my question is, can someone get into an Ivy League if they've had a low point in the scholar career? Should I lower my standards? —Kevin

Ivies like to see positive growth in grades. As long as you continue to improve, you should be fine.

Topic Applying to Ivy League colleges
Date April 12, 2017